Behavioural mimicry in flight path of Batesian intraspecific polymorphic butterfly Papilio polytes

Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Jun 22;282(1809):20150483. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0483.


Batesian mimics that show similar coloration to unpalatable models gain a fitness advantage of reduced predation. Beyond physical similarity, mimics often exhibit behaviour similar to their models, further enhancing their protection against predation by mimicking not only the model's physical appearance but also activity. In butterflies, there is a strong correlation between palatability and flight velocity, but there is only weak correlation between palatability and flight path. Little is known about how Batesian mimics fly. Here, we explored the flight behaviour of four butterfly species/morphs: unpalatable model Pachliopta aristolochiae, mimetic and non-mimetic females of female-limited mimic Papilio polytes, and palatable control Papilio xuthus. We demonstrated that the directional change (DC) generated by wingbeats and the standard deviation of directional change (SDDC) of mimetic females and their models were smaller than those of non-mimetic females and palatable controls. Furthermore, we found no significant difference in flight velocity among all species/morphs. By showing that DC and SDDC of mimetic females resemble those of models, we provide the first evidence for the existence of behavioural mimicry in flight path by a Batesian mimic butterfly.

Keywords: Batesian mimic butterfly; Papilio polytes; behavioural mimicry; flight behaviour; flight path; intraspecific polymorphism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Mimicry*
  • Butterflies / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal*
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Sex Characteristics

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.60BD8